P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Lathi-charge, clashes mar Kapurthala poll
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, October 13
Incidents of cane-charging, clashes between Congress and Akali supporters and allegations of bogus voting and booth capturing by supporters of the ruling party marred the process of byelections at the Kapurthala assembly segment here today.

The day began on a bad note when an electronic voting machine (EVM) in booth No 16, that falls in the Kesari Bagh area, did not work. As the first voter tried to cast his vote at 8 am, the machine did not beep and the vote could not be recorded. The polling staff repaired the machine and it eventually started working after 20 minutes.

Little before noon, there was a clash between Akali supporters, led by Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), and Mr Rattan Singh Ajnala, former minister, and Congress workers at polling station situated at tehsil office. The Akalis, who were complaining of bogus voters from the Congress and were trying to enter the booths, said they were not allowed to enter the booths to lodge their complaint.

This led to frustration among the Akali supporters. They forced their way inside and allegedly assaulted a polling agent, Mr Bakshish Singh Labba, vice-president of the municipal committee. The police forced the Akali supporters to move out.

Heavy patrolling in all city areas followed the incident and things went on somewhat smoothly till 3 pm. Even as just two hours were left for polling to conclude, tension resurfaced.

Supporters of SAD once again came out with complaints of bogus voting against Congress workers. This time the police resorted to cane-charging to disperse the workers. Few workers of the party even received minor bruises.

A little later, an Akali worker, outside the polling booth at Hindi Putri Pathshala, near Shalimar Bagh, also complained of an assault on him by Congress workers. The election observer and the SSP arrived on the spot. The entire scene and the viewpoints of both aggrieved parties were videotaped as per the instructions of the Election Commission.

Tension brewed further when another clash occurred at booth No 54 set up at Civil Veterinary Hospital. This time, Mr Hardyal Singh Jhita, a councillor, who was a polling agent in the booth, was hit in an attack on him allegedly by Congress supporters.

Mr Jhita’s hand was badly bruised and he was taken to a nearby hospital for first-aid. Soon, Ms Upinderjit Kaur, former minister, and Mr Raghbir Singh, Akali candidate, arrived at the scene. They said some men who wanted to forcefully cast their votes in favour of the ruling party tried to attack the councillor who was preventing them from doing so. The SSP and the election observer, Mr Davindra Kumar Dhadawat, also arrived at the booth and gave a hearing to the complainants.

Just half-an-hour before the polling was to conclude, there were allegations of booth capturing by Akali supporters at a booth set up in Hindi Putri Pathshala. Mr Deepak Kumar, a polling agent, said 25 men supporting the Congress candidate entered forcefully and caught hold of the EVM. He said they even cast a few bogus votes in favour of the ruling party.

The allegation was, however, refuted by the Presiding Officer, Mr Hari Mitar Duggal, who said some young men entered the booth with an aim of booth capturing but were not allowed to cast any vote. He said they simply tried to threaten him as well as the polling agents. At this, the police appeared at the scene and forced them out of the booth.

The police, however, did not register any case of violence in the assembly segment as Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, claimed that no case of crime was reported from anywhere.


Repoll likely in one Garhshankar booth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Repolling is likely to be ordered in at least one booth in the Garhshankar Assembly constituency following attempts by miscreants to storm in. Contrary to apprehensions expressed by different political parties in the state, polling process was more or less peaceful in the Kapurthala Assembly constituency.

Though reports regarding booth capturing were received from Kapurthala also, the authorities in the Election Department could not confirm the information. They added that in all probability the ruckus was created outside the booth.

Overall, the polling percentage in both the Assemblies remained “high”. Though the response was sluggish in the morning, more than 70 per cent votes were polled in Kapurthala.

The situation was not very different in Garhshankar. By the end of the day, over 65 per cent of the electors had exercised their franchise. Till noon just 25 per cent of the votes had been polled in both the constituencies.

The voting in both the constituencies was, as always, relatively high in the rural areas as compared to the urban areas, giving a possible edge to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Giving details of the incidents of “violence” in the Garhshankar Assembly constituency, the staff under Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) G.S. Cheema revealed that at about 3.30 pm, hooligans barged into the polling booths in Kalawalan Bhagtan and Nangal Churian villages.

They managed to escape with poll related material even before the security personnel present at the spot could pin them down. The police authorities do not rule out the possibility of the same gang being involved in both the cases. A First Information Report has reportedly been registered by the police authorities and further investigations are on. The polling resumed soon after the incidents.

A complaint regarding the same was forwarded to the CEO’s office at about 4.15 pm by BJP’s Member of Parliament Avinash Rai Khanna and party secretary Anil Sarin. The sources in the CEO’s office added that the Returning Officer would be sending his reports to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for necessary action. He is likely to recommend polling in just one booth.

In case of a repoll, the elections would in all probability take place on October 15.

As far as Kapurthala was concerned, the ruling Congress party was facing a straight fight against main opposition party SAD. On the other hand, Garhshankar was witnessing a four-cornered contest. In fray were candidates belonging to the Congress, SAD’s ally BJP, the CPI (M) and the BSP.

The Congress has fielded Lok Sabha member Rana Gurjit Singh’s sister-in-law Sukhjinder Kaur against former minister Raghbir Singh of SAD. In Garhshankar, Luv Kumar Goldy of the Congress is contesting the elections against BJP’s Mahinder Pal Mann, CPI(M)’s Maha Singh Rori and BSP’s Rachhpal Singh.


Sukhbir Badal’s cousin discharged in criminal case
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, October 13
Mr Narottam Singh Dhillon, alias Nimis, first cousin of Mr Sukhbir Badal, was today discharged from a criminal case, which was registered against him at the Lambi police station of this district on June 11, 2003, by Additional Sessions Judge, Mr U.S. Gair.

With the discharge of Mr Dhillon from the criminal case, the Akalis have got a shot in the arm on the one hand and on the other they have proved that the Congress government of Punjab has been implicating people having association with the Badal family and the SAD in false criminal cases.

The case was registered under Section 489 (A&B) of the IPC pertaining to possession and use of counterfeit currency, Sections 18 and 21 of the NDPS Act pertaining to possession and dealing in narcotics, Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Act and Section 25 of the Arms Act against Mr Dhillon in FIR number 130. Mr Dhillon belongs to Badal village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Lambi police station.

This was the second criminal case against Mr Dhillon. The first criminal case was registered against him at Mohali about two days ago before the registration of this criminal case.

Mr Babu Singh Sidhu, advocate, who defended Mr Dhillon’s case, while talking to The Tribune pointed out that Mr Gair, Additional Sessions Judge, discharged Mr Dhillon after he found no substance in the allegations levelled by the police against Mr Dhillon in the FIR.

Sources said this case was registered against Mr Dhillon by the authorities concerned in their bid to pre-empt the move of Mr Dhillon to secure a blanket bail from the high court against his arrest in any criminal case after they came to know that a close relative of Mr Dhillon had filed a habeas corpus writ in the Punjab and Haryana High Court following his arrest from Shimla in a midnight swoop in June 2003. The offences made out against Mr Dhillon in the FIR were of such heinous nature that the accused would found it difficult to get bail for years together.

It is learnt that this case was registered against Mr Dhillon despite the fact that he was in the custody of the Vigilance Bureau at Mohali after he was arrested from Shimla a few days ago. The case was registered on the information given by a police informer and the police did not make any recovery of fake currency, narcotics or illegal weapons before and after registering the case. This despite the fact that Mr Dhillon remained in police custody and was interrogated in connection with this case.

Before the registration of this case, a section of senior and junior police officials of the region was summoned to Chandigarh by their respective “bosses” for directing them personally to boost the “chase” of Mr Badal and his family members. They were also directed to keep tabs on the movements of those, who enjoyed the confidence of Mr Sukhbir Badal and Mr Parkash Singh Badal during their rule in the state.

Mr Dhillon, while talking to The Tribune said it had become clear to the people now that he was harassed by ruling politicians who implicated him in false criminal cases despite the fact that he had nothing wrong. He said he was harassed because he was close to the Badal family.


BHEL to execute Lehra Mohabbat-Stage II
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 13
Reeling under a severe power crisis, the Punjab State Electricity Board is set to augment its thermal generation by allotting work for the execution of the 500 mega watt Stage Two phase of the Lehra Mohabbat project to Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL).

The board, which is set to purchase power worth Rs 2,400 crore this year, had purchased power worth Rs 600 crore during the recent three-month crisis in the state. Stating this here today, board Chairman Y S Ratra said Stage Two of the Lehra Mohabbat project would cost Rs 1,789 crore and its first and second units would be commissioned in December 2006 and March 2007.

Mr Ratra said the project would be undertaken by the BHEL on a turnkey basis, added that the plant was expected to generate 300 crore units annually. He said the plant was expected to function at a Plant Load Factor of 68.5 per cent.

The PSEB was recently asked to submit short-term and long-term plans to augment its power resources by a Vidhan Sabha committee which visited the headquarters more than a month ago. The committee had noted that the board did not have any power project from which it could get short-term gains.

The board has also decided to take up the commissioning of the 168 mega watt Shahpur Kandi project. This project has been lingering for a long time. The Akal-BJP government had set aside Rs 200 crore for this project in 2002. However, the money could not be utilised for the project. Now the PSEB Chairman says the National Hydro Thermal Power Corporation (NHPC) has been identified as the development-cum-management firm for this project. Mr Ratra said, with the present tempo, it was expected that the generation benefits of the project would be available during the 11th Five Year Plan.

The board has also decided to take up other hydel power projects. The 18 mega watt Mukerian Hydel Project Stage Two has also been entrusted to the BHEL and the project is likely to be commissioned by July 2006. Besides, the 1.70 mega watt micro hydel project at Ropar, which is located at the out fall of the cooling water of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant at Ropar, is also being executed on a turnkey basis and will be commissioned by March 2005. The board is also proposing to execute the 75 mega watt UBDC Stage Three project through Malana Power Company, Noida, on a Build, Operate, Own or Transfer basis. This project is envisaged to be available during the first year of the 11th Five Year Plan.

The PSEB is also proposing to take up the setting up of a 1,000 mega watt gas-based power plant at Doraha. This plant is expected to be taken up as a joint venture and its benefits are likely to accrue by 2010. Board Member, Generation, H.M. Jain said besides this a large number of hydro projects were coming up in the Central sector in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh and that the board was making all-out efforts to get maximum allocation for Punjab from these projects to bridge the demand-supply gap.


Hosiery industry and PSEB happy, farmers not
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The sound of knitting needles has become longer and louder in Ludhiana, thanks to the early onset of winter this year. Whereas Monday’s rain has depressed farmers in central Punjab, it has cheered owners of hosiery and knitwear industry, having a seasonal turnover of Rs 6000 crore.

“ No more high decibel clatter of weaving machines makes us uncomfortable as the early beginning of winter has signalled good fiscal fortune for us this year”, says Mr Venod Thapar, a leading industrialist in the knitwear Industry.

A pleasant early morning and late evening chill in the weather in the past two days has made the hosiery industry clients rush to Ludhiana to revise upward their orders for sweaters, jerseys, pullovers and even blankets and shawls. “ It is time to rejoice as early winter has come after several years”, says another hosiery manufacturer. Compared to October 10, there has been about 3 degree celsius difference in the temperature yesterday.

In the hilly region, top reaches of which had snowfall, the fall in the temperature is over 5 degree celsius in the past 48 hours. In Srinagar and Shimla, minimum temperature has come below 10 degree celsius. In fact it has been recorded 7.4 degree celsius in Srinagar on October 11. The fall in the temperature in central Punjab is more than other parts of Punjab.

Mr Jagmohan Singh, a famed name in blanket industry, says: “Obviously, the early winter means substantial increase in the sale of blankets. In fact in the months of October and November, sky without clouds depresses us”.

The situation on the power front has improved tremendously. However, earlier hosiery industry had suffered a big loss because of the irritating power cuts in August and September. “Rates of yarn went up by Rs 35 per kg because of a fall in its production owing to power cuts. There will be overall about 20 per cent increase in the production cost of hosiery goods,” adds Mr Thapar. “We would not be in a position to pass on the increased cost to retailers”, he said. “Our profit margin will be thin this year because of the cost factor but a jump in the sales owing to early winter is expected to compensate us”, he adds.

The PSEB authorities are also happy as the burden of power supply has gone down manifold because of a change in the weather.

Meanwhile, the damage caused by the heavy downpour is confined to districts like Fatehgarh, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Nawanshahr, Patiala, Ropar, Sangrur and Ferozepore. Ropar with a 100 mm rainfall is the worst hit and followed by Nawanshahr.

Dr Ajmer Singh, Director, Agriculture, said yesterday that he had asked his district agriculture officers to submit reports regarding the damage caused to crops because of rain and hailstorm in their respective areas. There was no damage to the cotton crop in the Malwa belt and paddy crop had also remained unaffected in that area, he added.


Teachers plan “education bandh” on Oct 19
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Over 6,000 teachers from private government-aided colleges will march to Chandigarh for a rally on October 19, the day for which a call has been given to be observed as ''education bandh''. The call is by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers' Union. The teachers will go on mass casual leave that day.

The step, says PCCTU president H S Hundal and general secretary Jagwant Singh, had been taken due to the ''indifferent and callous attitude'' of the Punjab Government, which has not released the full sum under the 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme to 160-odd private colleges since 1999-2000. ''The state government owes to the private colleges a sum of Rs 152 crore''.

Consequently, Dr Jagwant Singh said, over 2,000 teachers in 100 colleges had not been paid their salaries for the past six months or so. Likewise, nearly 200 teachers, who had retired every year since 2003, had not been paid gratuity.

The worst effected were the small colleges in backward, bet and border areas of the state, whose managements could not afford to give the teachers their due salaries in the absence of full 95 per cent grant-in-aid from the government. There were two pending salary bills in the treasuries, dated June 30 and September 3.

PCCTU executive will meet at Amritsar on October 17 and take stock of the situation, including steps to step up their agitation in support of the other pending demands, as well.

Those demands included relaxation in refresher courses, non-implementation of Ph.D increments despite UGC instructions, feeder scale adjustment for certain categories of teachers, say librarians and DPEs or treating them as lecturers, payment of house rent allowance to rural college teachers, 15 per cent house rent allowance for Patiala and implementing merger of 50 per cent dearness allowance into pay.


Fake political secretary of Sonia Gandhi held
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 13
A youth, who had been impersonating as political secretary of AICC chief Sonia Gandhi and cheated a section of district officials, was arrested today.

Police sources said Amandeep Mittal of Jalandhar district cheated a section of district officials by impersonating as political secretary of Ms Gandhi. He had enjoyed the facilities at the local circuit house and used a government vehicle for visiting local religious places since last night.

Amandeep Mittal made a call to the house of Deputy Commissioner, Mr K.A.P. Sinha, and told the operator there that political secretary of Ms Gandhi was visiting Bathinda and arrangements for his stay might be made.

After some time, a clean-shaven youth checked in one of the VVIP rooms in the circuit house as political secretary of Ms Gandhi. A section of revenue officials started visiting him. They also served him as a VVIP. He was provided a car to visit the local religious places.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said the officials, who were accompanying Amandeep Mittal, got suspicious about him when he demanded security.

Mr Dev said after he was informed by the officials about their suspicion, district civil and police authorities started verifying the antecedents of the impersonator from Congress office at Chandigarh and Delhi. The offices ruled out any visit of political secretary of Ms Gandhi to Bathinda.

In the custody, Amandeep Mittal told the police that he belonged to Jalandhar district.

Mr Dev said a case was registered under Sections 419 and 420 of the IPC in this connection. The accused would be produced in the court tomorrow.


Manuke claims support of 45 panchayats
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 13
The Chairman of the Panchayat Samiti, Baghapurana, Mr Amarjit Singh Manuke, has claimed the support of 45 panchayats out of 50. Mr Manuke, who is facing boycott by the rebels, also claimed the support of 22 members of the 23-member samiti and two members of the Zila Parishad.

Mr Manuke also showed some documents in which his supporters stated that the rebel activities against him were being engineered by those who didn’t want development of the area and they were promoting factionalism in the party.

They said that the chairman had chalked out good development plans after taking over the charge and had disbursed grants without any prejudice.

The dissidents had raised a banner of revolt against Mr Manuke, saying that he was discriminating among panchayats while distributing grants. They had also alleged that being a liquor contractor, the chairman was getting raids conducted at his rivals’ homes through the police under the pretext of recovering illicit liquor. The rebel leaders said that removing Mr Manuke from the top post was not their aim and they only wanted to stop the activities of “humiliating” villagers.

When contacted, Mr Manuke denied allegations levelled by the rebels.


Punjab to hire wildlife management experts
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Biodiversity in Punjab will soon be in safe hands. For the first time in its history, Punjab has decided to hire reputed wildlife management experts to help it conserve wildlife better.

The project, which is on the verge of being approved, will be funded by the Japanese government. The main objectives of the project are to document, preserve and manage biodiversity in fresh water and terrestrial ecosystems by suiting the latest scientific approaches to biodiversity conservation with the proactive involvement of rural communities.

Concerned with the mounting pressure on its sanctuaries and also on the areas falling outside the protected belt, the state Wildlife Department built up the case for a comprehensive project to conserve biodiversity in Punjab. The project aims at improved protection and development in 10 wildlife sanctuaries of the state. These cover 31.49 hectare area, about 10 % of the notified forest area in the state.

Within the project, experts seek to develop a special strategy for restoration measures in the manmade Harike wetland which is a Ramsar site, and Kanjli wetland, another Ramsar site in Punjab. Bir Moti Bagh will also be extensively focused for conservation purposes.

Having invited expressions of interests from wildlife management experts from all over the country, the government has already picked on two firms, namely West Bengal Forest Development Corporation and JPS Associates from Delhi. Both have submitted detailed reports on scientific conservation of biodiversity in Punjab which has about 6 % of the geographical area under notified forest cover. One of these reports will be chosen for execution in the state.

Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr A.S. Dogra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab, admitted the decision to hire wildlife management experts had been taken in the wake of mounting human pressure on wildlife and also rising man-animal conflict. “In the face of such limitations, enforcement alone cannot conserve these areas. Conservation requires a perspective that stretches well beyond the protected Area boundaries and is based on innovative strategies and practices,” he said.

Elaborating on the Biodiversity Conservation and Management (BCM) Project, Mr Dogra said the Punjab government was equally interested in conservation measures which could strengthen management of zoos, parks and safaris across the state. 


Rights panel takes on PSHRC; writes to President
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The Lawyers for Human Rights International (LHRI) today took on the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) alleging that there was ‘no transparency’ in its working.

In a representation to the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Mr Arvind Thakur, general secretary of the local unit of the LHRI, alleged ‘there was no involvement of NGOs’ in its working as warranted by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. This ‘created suspicion’ about its working, he said.

The representation alleged that major provisions of the Act such as the study of treaties and other international instruments on human rights were ‘totally ignored’ by the commission. Research in the filed of human rights and spreading awareness about human rights among the various sections of society were also not undertaken by the commission, it said.

The efforts of NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights were not at all encouraged by the commission, the representation said. It urged the President to ask the Punjab Governor to personally look into the functioning of the commission.

“Without working in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the very purpose of the commission will be defeated,” it asserted.

“The members of the commission from the judicial side, who are mostly retired judges of high courts, are required to be trained in human rights field so that they could feel the emotions of the general public. Regarding members from bureaucracy, the members should be those, who are having good records in public service,” the representation added.


PSEB engineers seek white paper
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 13
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association today accused the State government of trying to dismantle the PSEB in a non-transparent manner without taking the major stakeholders, including engineers, into confidence.

In a statement here, association President M S Bajwa and general secretary H S Bedi said a misconception was being spread that dismantling of the Board was mandatory under the Electricity Act, 2003. They said this was far from the truth as the Act provided for continuance of state electricity boards and gave allowance to all State governments to retain the generation and distribution operations under one company.

The engineers said nowhere in the Act it had been stated that separate generation and distribution companies should be formed. They said private generating companies were being encouraged to take up the distribution business and the same companies were setting up their own generation plants to ensure

optimum utilisation. The leaders said on the other hand the state electricity boards were being asked to segregate their operations and create models which had already failed in other parts of the country.

Urging the people to be vigilant against such moves of the state government, the association said this would result in unbearable expenditure on agricultural consumers.

They also said instead of making the power sector more professionally managed steps were being taken to increase the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and politicians over the PSEB.

Demanding open discussion on these issues as power supply was a vital supply, the association said the government should come up with a white paper on the matter.


Maharashtra Red Cross officials visit Punjab centre
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The honorary secretary of the Maharashtra Red Cross, Dr C. J. Baltiwala, along with the joint honorary secretary , Maharashtra, visited the Punjab Red Cross Centre to study its programmes and projects on Monday.

As a part of the exchange programme, Dr Baltiwala interacted with the staff of the Punjab Red Cross Regional Training Centre and said the Red Cross was a unique organisation having an international network to help the people at the time of a disaster.

Dr Baltiwala and Ms Modi elaborated on the tie-up of the Red Cross blood banking services and HIV testing centre in Mumbai with the American and Australian Red Crosses.

Sharing the health concerns of Maharashtra, Ms Modi said small children there were suffering from heart diseases and their number was gradually rising. While addressing junior Red Cross campers, the delegation advised them to work whole heartedly for the uplift of the Red Cross programme on its fundamental principles.

Capt Rajdeep Singh Jaiya of the Punjab Red Cross Society while welcoming the delegates stated that a team of Red Cross volunteers would visit Maharashtra to exchange the ideas and plans for better functioning of the society.

The honorary secretary of the state Red Cross hospital welfare section, Ms Manjit Sodhi, spoke on the voluntary services being rendered by the women social workers at the PGI.


Probe sought into Kargil funds misuse
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 13
Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ex-servicemen cell president Col (Retd) P.I.S. Phoolka has demanded a CBI probe into “misappropriation” of funds meant for Kargil martyrs by office-bearers of the BJP.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Col Phoolka said he welcomed the arrest of former BJP executive member Hansraj Nakra on charges of misappropriation of funds collected in Hoshiarpur district for the Kargil martyrs.

He said only a CBI probe could reveal the magnitude of the fraud.

The former serviceman said it was a shame that office-bearers of the BJP were being accused of such activities. He said people at the helm of the party, including the then president, Mr Mohinder Lal Rinwa, should be held accountable questioned by the police in this regard.

Col Phoolka said he had resigned from the BJP’s ex-servicemen cell following complaints from district committees of the cell on this score as well as the failure of the BJP to get any of the just demands of former servicemen accepted.

These demands included the demand of the one rank, one pension scheme which was not accepted by the former NDA government despite numerous representations.

The former BJP man said ex-servicemen of Punjab felt the Chief Minister would look into their demands.


72nd IAF anniversary celebrated
Our Correspondent

Bhisiana (Bathinda), October 13
Group Captain S. Sukumar, Station Commander, gave away commendation and appreciation cards to the selected Air Warriors at the 72nd anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which was celebrated with a lot of fanfare here.

In a press note issued here today, Group Captain S. Sukumar exhorted the station personnel to inculcate a positive sense of professionalism in their work. He also administered the oath, which was taken by Air Force personnel, re-affirming their allegiance to the Construction of India and vowing to project the independence and integrity of the national, irrespective of any danger to their lives.

The week-long celebrations included parade by Air Force personnel, community dinner (barakhana) for all personnel and families, a high tea for the retired Air Warriors, a traditional at home ceremony for the SNCOs.

A variety programme and static display of equipment, including aircraft, was organised.


Bank staff hold protest against merger
Our Correspondent

Patiala, October 13
On a call given by Central Bank Organisations, more than 400 employees of the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) held a demonstration in front of the regional office of the bank in protest against the merger of private sector Global Bank Trust with the OBC.

Association’s north zone general secretary Vinod Sharma said a parliamentary or judicial inquiry should be initiated to probe the nexus between the promoters of Global Trust Bank and brokers in the stock market.

He said the government must clarify why no action was taken against those who “looted” Global Trust Bank. Mr Sharma said the government must answer why a negative impact of loss of Rs 1,000 crore and non-performing assets (NPA) of Rs 1,500 crore was being loaded on to a public sector bank.

He added that if the merger was appropriate why did the government not consider taking over all private banks in the country.

The association also demanded fixing of accountability on Reserve Bank of India (RBI) officers who had failed to take timely action when irregularities were rampant.

It said in case no action was taken, the employees would intensify their 


SGPC official in the dock
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 13
Another SGPC member, and this time senior vice-president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Gurpal Singh Gora, is in dock on the charge of polygamy. However, Mr Gora had denied the charges.

It is alleged that Mr Gora had arranged a ‘marriage’ with a “married” girl of his village though she had not got divorce from her previous husband . It is also alleged that Mr Gora had deserted his previous wife many years ago which is considered violation of the Sikh “Maryada”.

However, Mr Gora said he did not want to lodge any complaint against those who were levelling ‘baseless charges” against him.

Earlier, Mr Baldev Singh, an SGPC member, has been facing the charge of molesting a wife of “raagi” . The matter is still pending at Akal Takht . Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) wrote to the Deputy Commissioner for ordering a probe into the alleged attempt by certain SGPC members to molest a woman at one of the serais here.


Ban Divya Jyoti activities, says SGPC
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 13
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) yesterday asked the state government to ban the activities of Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan, Noor Mehal.

In a letter to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Dalmegh Singh, Secretary, SGPC, said the sansthan was indulging in mischievous propaganda against Guru Granth Sahib and Sikhism. He said already the government had imposed a ban on ‘satsang’ by the sansthan.

Mr Dilmegh stated that wherever the sansthan held ‘satsang’, it led to tension in the area. He said on October 3, the sansthan held a function at Harpura village near Batala that led to tension.

He alleged that seven persons had been falsely implicated in various cases during the tension in Batala and demanded withdrawal of cases against them.


Chief Khalsa Diwan flays Modi’s remarks
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, October 13
The Chief Khalsa Diwan has condemned Mr Narenda Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, for his remarks against the Sikh Community.

In a Press note issued here yesterday, Mr Jagdish Singh, convener, demanded that Mr Modi publicly apologised to the Sikh community in general and Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, in particular.

JALANDHAR: Demanding that the Shiromani Akali Dal should snap its ties with its alliance partner, the BJP, senior Congress leader and Punjab Minister Lal Singh said on Tuesday that Mr Narendra Modi’s “sarcastical” and “derogatory” comments on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was an insult to Sikh community.


‘Green drive’ in Bathinda
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 13
Sahara Jan Sewa, an NGO, which has been taking care of destitutes and cremating unclaimed bodies for the past two decades, started “green drive” in the city yesterday.

Mr Pankaj Singla, chairman, Sahara Jan Sewa, said under the drive, about 2,500 saplings would be planted on the divider of one of the main roads passing from this city.

He added that about 2 km of divider of the main road would be covered with the saplings.

Earlier also, it has carried out plantation of saplings in various pockets of the city.


Blockage in nullah removed
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 13
A blockage in a nullah, which was allegedly encroached upon by some residents of Badala village, was removed by the local administration today.

Tight security arrangements had been made to avoid any untoward incident. A Duty Magistrate was also present at the village when the blockage was being removed. Nearly 20 police personnel had been posted at the site.

Residents of the village had blocked a road yesterday in protest against the alleged blocking of the nullah as it had led to flooding in a part of the village due to a heavy rain. Water had entered a number of houses causing damage to household goods and farm produce.

It is learnt that the Ropar Deputy Commissioner, Mrs Seema Jain, had issued orders to get the nullah reopened. She also said that since the nullah passed through a residential area, some solution to the problem should be found out after taking into consideration the affected family and the panchayat of the village.


Court order in child-swapping case today
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 13
The court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) today reserved the order regarding the custody of Amarpartap Singh, who was allegedly swapped by Ramesh Rani, mid-wife, at the time of his birth, for tomorrow after hearing the arguments on the DNA report.

Ramesh Rani had allegedly sold Amarpartap to Sukhminder Singh and Ranjit Kaur of Raipur village here for Rs 4 lakh.

However, the DNA test, which was conducted after an application was moved by Amarpratap’s biological parents, Harish and Manju, confirmed that Amarpartap was born to the couple and not to Sukhminder Singh and Ranjit Kaur, who had been bringing him up since his birth.

The case came to light when Ramesh Rani was arrested by the Kotwali police in another child-swapping case in January 2003. She was also taken to the A-division police station in the murder case of an infant who was found near railway lines. During investigations, she had reportedly told the police about the swapping of Amarpartap. She even took the police team to Sukhminder Singh’s house.

After this incident, Harish and Manju also got suspicious about the swapping of their child as the girl child, Muskan, did not have any resemblance to them. During delivery, Manju had fell unconscious and was later told that she had given birth to a female child. Since then, Muskan is being brought up by the couple. The couple approached the police. Ramesh Rani confessed to selling their child to Sukhminder Singh.


High Court
Appeals allowed
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, October 13
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed the appeals filed by teachers of border areas of Gurdaspur against the decision of the Punjab Government to stop the border area house rent allowance payable to employees like them whose place of employment is situated between 10 and 16 km of the international border.

A Division Bench of Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar and Mr Justice J.S. Narang ordered that the appeals were allowed in terms of the orders of the Supreme Court in similar matters. The Bench said that the government stand that the cases of the petitioners did not fall within the ambit of the protection provided in the notification dated August 13, 1988, was totally incorrect.

The Bench ordered that the petitioner will continue to get the benefits granted under the notification.

In their petition, Arjun Singh and 203 other teachers of government schools near the international border stated that the Punjab Government recently withdrew the provision for payment of 12.5 per cent border area house rent allowance on par with A Class cities.

The petitioners stated that even though the Supreme Court had ordered that such facilities were to be protected, the Punjab Government withdrew the allowance.


Farmer-arhtiya deals: BKU against police role
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 13
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Punjab) would make all efforts to stop police intervention in deals involving farmers and arhtiyas. This was stated by working chief of the union Manjit Singh Kadian and general secretary Bhupendra Singh Mahesari here.

Both leaders alleged that while lending money to farmers arhtiyas made them sign blank papers. They said those preparing fake documents and fake witnesses were equally responsible in misleading farmers.

They urged the state government that the police intervention should be stopped in matters involving arhtiyas and farmers. They demanded a probe into assets of arhtiyas who till sometime back had small business.

Banks should increase credit limit for farmers while fixing the annual interest at 4 per cent, they added.


Arrest fall in cotton prices: BKU
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 13
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Punjab, has said that if the decline in the cotton prices was not checked then the union would stage dharnas at various places across the state.

The working chief of the union, Manjit Singh Kadian, today said that the cotton prices had come down from Rs 2,500 to Rs 1,700.

The union leaders demanded that the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and Markfed be asked to procure cotton and its price be increased to Rs 3,500 per quintal.

They alleged that traders had started “looting” farmers after the government agencies backtracked from cotton procurement.

They warned that if proper measures were not taken to arrest the decline in the cotton prices, the union would stage dharna in Fazilka on October 15, Bathinda on October 19, and in Abohar on October 26.


No need for more recruits, says DGP
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, October 13
The Punjab Government has withdrawn over 4,000 of the 6,000 police personnel provided as security to a large number of political leaders and other dignitaries in order to strengthen police stations in the state.

The remaining force would be taken back shortly.

This was stated by Director-General Police (DGP) A.A. Sadiqqui while talking to mediapersons here yesterday. Claiming law and order was under control, he said there was no need to recruit more as the present contingents were sufficient to meet any challenge in the state.

Admitting some weaknesses in the police, said the Police Department had initiated many constructive steps, like setting up of community policing centres at each district headquarter.

In addition, special campaign had been launched to hold functions in educational institutions to make the taught aware about their rights and duties.

He was personally attending these functions twice a month, the DPG said.

He refused to comment on the posting of PPS officers on posts meant for the IPS cadre in 12 districts.

The DGP was here to preside over a function at Kotkapura and review the law order situation with senior police officials of the Faridkot and Ferozepore police range.

Speaking at the annual function of Gandhi Memorial College for Women at Kotkapura, he appealed to educational institutions to help bring the people and the police closer. Expressing confidence in the leadership of the future generation, particularly the fair sex, who could play a constructive role in this regard, he sought their help in eradicating the menace of drug addiction in the state.

He gave away prizes to college toppers. Welcoming the chief guest, the principal read out the college’s annual report.

A cultural programme was presented by students.


Inside Babudom
Police standoff ends
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The standoff has ended. The Punjab Government has finally decided not to post IPS officer G.D. Pandey under Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) D.R. Bhatti. The two officers were opposed to each other following contrary stands in the wireless scam.

The sources in the Punjab Home Department revealed that Mr Pandey was now being posted at Police Headquarters in Chandigarh as Inspector-General of Police (Crime).

The authorities had earlier asked him to take over as Inspector-General of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Patiala. But the officer had expressed his unwillingness to join.

The reason behind the stalemate was not hard to see. Acceptance of posting orders would have meant working under ADGP Bhatti — something Mr Pandey was not willing to do.

In an attempt to solve the issue, the matter was placed before the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, by the state Home Department. The matter was resolved reportedly after his intervention.

Going into the background of the case, the sources disclosed that Mr Pandey — earlier posted at Chandigarh as IGP in charge of security — was asked to join the IRB vide an administrative order.

The entire process was termed as routine by senior Punjab Police authorities.

However, Mr Pandey had asked the authorities to reconsider their decision. In his application, Mr Pandey had reportedly claimed that his son was studying in a high school and it was not convenient for him to move out at the current stage. As such his case should be considered emphatically. Mr Pandey, when contacted, refused to comment on the issue.

It may be recalled that a public interest litigation in the alleged wireless scam was earlier filed before a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In their petition, two advocates Ashok Chaudhary and R.K. Kwatra — members of social organisation Lawyers' Initiative — had sought "comprehensive inquiry by an independent agency into the embezzlement of approximately Rs 2.58 crore".


Two registry clerks suspended
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 13
Two employees of the Revenue Department posted in the local tehsil as registry clerks placed under suspension by Deputy Commissioner, K.A.P. Sinha for their alleged involvement in handing over an unsigned sale deed of a piece of land to one of the purchasers after removing the same from the custody of tehsildar.

Official sources said Mr Sinha also ordered an inquiry into the evasion of stamp duty made by the purchasers of Punjab Ceramic Unit, located on the Bathinda-Dabwali road, which was auctioned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Sources added that the two clerks, Mr Varinder Kumar and Mr Gurcharan Singh, were placed under suspension when Mr Sinha came to know that the unsigned sale deed, which was submitted to Tehsildar by the purchasers of another unit namely Punjab Spinning Mill, located on the Bathinda-Dabwali road, had been handed over to the same purchaser clandestinely by violating the norms by the clerks. The mill was also auctioned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the recent past.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that one of the purchasers of the mill went to the camp office of Mr Sinha and urged him to ask Tehsildar, Mr Rajesh Verma, to register the sale deed submitted by him on October 5 at the same value of stamp papers, which had been deposited by him. When Mr Sinha asked him that to produce documents on which he had calculated the amount of stamp fee that was to be deposited to get the sale deed registered, the purchaser handed over the original sale deed, which he had submitted to Tehsildar, to Mr Sinha.

When Mr Sinha asked him how he (purchaser) had got the original copy of the sale deed from the tehsil office, the purchaser could not come out with any answer. On this, Mr Sinha got infuriated and placed the two clerks under suspension immediately.

Mr Sinha added that chargesheets would be issued to the two clerks in due course of time.

Meanwhile, the process of impounding the sale deed submitted by that purchaser had also been started, as the authorities concerned had come to know that the purchaser had made evasion in the sale deed which he submitted to the Tehsildar on October 5.


Couple done to death by ‘kale kachhewale’ gang
5 family members injured
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 13
Members of the ‘kale kachhewale’ scaled a compound wall to enter the courtyard of a house in Uttam Colony in Banur last night and clubbed a couple to death and injured five others seriously.

Ironically, the house owner, Shaan Chand, was a Class IV employee in the FCI who had recently built a house in the lower middle class colony. The new house plus the fact that it was isolated made it an easy target for the gang, which struck a little after midnight.

Sources said the gang could not get entry through the main gate of the house which led into a courtyard. Gang members scaled the 5-foot wall to gain entry into the courtyard where Shaan Chand was sleeping with his wife Kaushalya. All doors to the other rooms were open.

The gang members disengaged the pulley used to draw water from a hand pump, which was then used to club both Shaan Chand and his wife to death. Their bodies were taken inside and put on a cot. The gang members then set about attacking all other members of the family in a systematic manner. They first went to the room of Shaan Chand’s son Balbir Chand and attacked both him and his wife Asha Rani. Then Shan Chand’s another son Lakhsman Das and daughter Deepa were attacked in a similar fashion.

The gang members then asked Meeto Devi, another daughter of Shaan Chand, for the keys to an almirah and a metal trunk in the house. When Meeto said she did not have any knowledge of the keys, she was also hit on the head. The gang members tied Meeto to the cot in which she was lying.

The crime came to light when Balbir Chand regained consciousness at 5 am. He untied Meeto Devi from the cot, who rushed to houses of relatives nearby to tell them about the crime. Subsequently, the police was also informed.

Zonal Inspector-General of Police Rajinder Singh reached the spot immediately along with other senior officers of the district. He said preliminary investigations revealed that tribesmen from Madhya Pradesh, numbering around eight, were responsible for the crime. He said Meeto Devi, who had interacted with the gang members, was being questioned. He said a high alert had been sounded in the entire subdivision and efforts would be made to nab the gang members by setting up nakas in the district.

Meanwhile, all injured, including Shaan Chand’s sons Balbir Chand and Lakshman Das, daughter-in-law Asha Rani and daughters Deepa and Meeto have been admitted to the PGI and Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh. Police sources said the robbers had stayed in the house for more than one and a half hours and that they had left after taking around Rs 10,000 in cash. A case has been registered at the Banur police station.


Youths set priest on fire
Our Correspondent

Bhadaur (Barnala), October 13
Two motor cycle-borne unidentified boys set on fire a temple priest. The incident took place around 9 pm yesterday when, after the routine kirtan, the priest, Om Parkash, was closing the temple.

Soon after the kirtan, two boys came at the temple. They were having two polythene bags with them. One bag was full of fruits, while in other bag it was petrol.

They sprinkled petrol over the priest and set him on fire.

After hearing screams, the wife of the priest, Sunita Rani, cried for help. People gathered at the site but both the miscreants fled.

The priest in his statement expressed ignorance about the identity of the miscreants.

A case has been registered.


Youth arrested in acid-throwing case
Our Correspondent

Batala, October 13
The police today registered a case under Section 326, IPC, against Narinder Singh, son of Mr Ranjit Singh, a resident of Industrial Estate, Focal Point, Batala.

Narinder Singh threw acid on two sisters, Mandeep Kaur (20) and her sister, Kuljeet Kaur (18), residents of Focal Point, too.

However, some relatives of Narinder Singh were brought to Batala city police station yesterday. This forced Narinder to surrender to the police here today.

Some drops of acid had also fell in Narinder Singh’s right eye and he had got himself admitted to the Civil Hospital for treatment.


Teachers without salary for two years
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, October 13
Two J.B.T. teachers teaching in government-aided Satsang Primary School here since September 20, 2002, have not been paid salary for want of sanction from the Punjab Finance Department.

Mr Raj Kishore Kalra said the appointment of these two teachers was made by the school management after it had taken the approval in accordance with the existing strength of the students. The District Education Officer (Primary), Ferozepore in a letter dated 30 July 2002, had stated that in view of the number of students, two teachers could be appointed against posts which had fallen vacant. Accordingly two teachers were appointed on September 20, 2002. The appointment was approved by the District Education Officer (Primary) on November 15, 2002, under the grant-in-aid scheme.

Mr Kalra criticised that even after more than two years, the Finance Department had not released the grant for the payment of salaries.


VB raids on nursing colleges
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 13
The Vigilance Bureau yesterday conducted raids on four nursing schools and colleges in the city and seized some documents.

Sources said that the raids were being conducted on all the nursing schools and colleges across the state following the exposure of some fake nursing colleges.

The Vigilance DSP, Mr Surjeet Singh Khosa, admitted that the VB raided four nursing colleges in the town and said that the records recovered were being scrutinised.

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